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Online scammers already taking advantage of bin Laden's death

A passer by looks at newspaper headlines reporting the death of Osama bin Laden, in front of the Newseum, on May 2, 2011 in Washington D.C.

Of course, people want to know more about Osama bin Laden and how the raid on his compound went down. Everyone's curious. Thing is, the people who make malware software programs know you're curious. The people who want to make your computer part of a botnet know you're curious. The people who want to trick you into giving away details of your personal identity know you're curious. And they're all planting fake links all over the Internet to rope you in. Because that's what they do.

We talk to Paul Roberts, editor of Threatpost.com, the news blog for Kaspersky Labs. He says the best thing you can do is to get your news and information from sources you already know and trust. Don't give in to your reptile brain and click on the grossest pictures or descriptions of bin Laden post-raid.

Paul says that while the malware creeps are gaming the search engine optimization to get their links to appear high in results, there are nefarious goings-on over at Facebook as well. On Facebook, you might see a link to a story and if you click on it, he says, "It will say if you want to see video, fill in info about yourself, like name and email. So it's really harvesting personal information with the promise of viral video of capture of his body. Then when you do that, you get redirected to another page that wants more information from you." And soon you're down the identity theft rabbit hole. Of course, those links are then posted as being from your account in order to lure your friends into clicking.

The takeaway from this story? We've heard it before: update your anti-virus software. Stay vigilant.

Also in this program, Twitter is getting a lot of credit for breaking the news of bin Laden's death. But it's Wikipedia who deserves your attention.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.
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I couldn't agree more with Jeffery.

Please John, when you do these stories add that MAC and Linux computers are NOT effected. I can't tell you how many emails I get from older MAC users concerned about these NON-issues.

We are big fans of the show, that's why we listen and occasionally comment.

The story about malicious websites taking advantage of people searching for news about the Bin Laden kill stated that the most important safety measure would be to keep your Antivirus up-to-date (story aired 03 May 2011).

What an advertizement, after having just spoke with a gentleman from an antivirus company, to just repeat what he said and his company is selling. Marketplace Tech and NPR, did you really just repeat the talking point of a corporate vendor? What about not using Windows, the largest target for malware makers? What about not using Internet Explorer, the largest target within the Windows target? Antivirus is a reactive fix, not proactive at all.

It is time to stop calling these 'computer' or 'pc' viruses, which I hear far too often from your Tech show. These infect Windows, not Linux, not OSX, not 'computers': Windows.

I expect NPR to present stories in a non-biased, truthful way, and I am hearing less and less of this. Calling a Windows virus a 'computer virus' may be common in other news outlets but its not the facts and I expect better from NPR than to skip over facts and issues that directly impact the NPR listeners and NPR corporate funders. Yes, Microsoft has funded NPR but that should not put them above the news.

Jeffrey Thomas
Saint Paul MN
NPR Contributor

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